Motor racing: Austria ideal chance for Formula One to experiment with racing format, says Red Bull boss

Any change to the race weekend format has to be approved by all the teams.
Any change to the race weekend format has to be approved by all the teams.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Formula One has a perfect opportunity to experiment with back-to-back races in Austria in July but champions Mercedes are standing in the way, Red Bull boss Christian Horner said on Monday (June 1).

Spielberg's Red Bull Ring is due to start the season on July 5 with a second race there, also without spectators, a week later.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) and the sport's commercial rights holders Liberty Media have proposed a reverse-grid qualifying race on the second Saturday to decide that Sunday's starting order and add to the excitement.

The idea would see qualifying replaced by a 30-minute, non-points scoring sprint race, with drivers starting in reverse order of their previous finishing position.

The experiment would be continued at other circuits hosting back-to-back races, with the overall points leader last on the grid.

The aim is to make the action less predictable when the same layout is used and provide more interest for broadcasters.

But any change to the race weekend format has to be approved by all the teams. An online vote on the proposal is likely later this week.

The experiment was mooted already last year, before Covid-19 played havoc with the calendar, with Formula One keen on having three reverse grid races in 2020.

That was dropped when two teams, one of them Mercedes, voted against the idea.

The British team were again not supportive when it came up again at a meeting last Friday.

"I think we've got a unique situation this year, and having two races at the same venue - it would seem the perfect time to try something different at that second event," Horner told Sky Sports television.

 
 
 

"Otherwise, with stable weather conditions, we're likely to have the same output in race two as we have in race one.

"The only person that wasn't particularly supportive of it (the proposal) was (Mercedes boss) Toto (Wolff) because he thought it would interfere with Lewis' (Hamilton's) seventh world championship campaign, and it would be too much of a variable."

Sky quoted Mercedes as saying that "we don't believe F1 needs gimmicks to make it attractive. We believe in the sport to deliver excitement".

Mercedes have won both the drivers' and constructors' titles for the past six years and another for Hamilton would equal Michael Schumacher's record of seven.

Formula One has yet to start its season due to the Covid-19 pandemic but is expected to issue a revised calendar on Tuesday, with a string of European races in quick succession.

 
 
 

The season is already going to be considerably reduced from the record 22 races originally scheduled, with grands prix going behind closed doors for the first time and the unprecedented situation of two races at some circuits.

The sport was due to introduce major changes for 2021 aimed at making races more competitive but the bulk of those have been pushed back to 2022. Teams have already accepted a form of handicapping for next year, with less successful outfits able to do more aerodynamic work than the top ones.

Red Bull have won for the past two years at their home circuit in Spielberg with Dutch driver Max Verstappen.